Tuesday, 16 May 2017


Art Therapy and Autism


Art therapy, has its origin in psychotherapy, thus plays a significant role in the treatment of children and teens diagnosed with ASD. Images and art making is naturally a safe way for children and teens to communicate and relate to the world around them. (Kramer, 1971; Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1964; Meyerowitz-Katz, 2003; Waller, 2006). When this experience is shared and facilitated by a professional art therapist, a meaningful opportunity is provided for the individual to express their psychological needs that often go unaddressed by other forms of therapies (Martin, 2009).  This use of nonverbal expression and the rich experience of utilizing visual modalities to stimulate cognitive, emotional and social development is what sets art therapy a part from similar professions (Gilroy, 2006; Martin, 2009).


Art therapists do not simply assign therapeutic directives; rather, by establishing a trusting relationship, they work jointly with the individual-sensitively guiding the art making to contribute to a positive change in their social behaviour, emotional expression, focus attention, self-regulation, flexibility, problem solving, communication skills, self-awareness and self-esteem (Martin, 2009; Pioch, 2010; Schweizer, 2014).


As Art therapy provides an fundamental avenue for the individual to understand and express their inner thoughts and emotions, it is crucial to consider this form of treatment in order to serve all aspects of the teen or child’s holistic development. 
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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Why is Motor Skills Development so important?


All children have rapid changes in development in their CNS (Central Nervous System) as they age.  In brief…the CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord.  The CNS uses sensory receptors throughout the body to assist movement.  Movement is motor function that results from a series of sensory and motor neuron events occurring in very short succession. The groundwork for the CNS begins in the womb, and is partially influenced even then, by their environment. 

Voluntary movements (initiated by self) are the first means of communication between baby and its family.  Sometimes the CNS develops “slower” as compared to their neurotypical counterparts. 


This slower development does not always result in delayed or impaired motor development.  However when it does, it can be immediately noticeable or later in life (months or years).  If the CNS is compromised at all in the birthing process or later by infection or disease the motor development of the child is affected.   

Delayed motor skills are those skills that are underdeveloped compared to other children of similar age.  These skills can be developed using clever gross motor (multiple joint/sensors) and fine motor (single joint) programming.  It is very successful when this programming is consistent, individualized and progressive.  Programming involves segmented movements that relate to the weakest points for the child.   Some examples of topics are jumping, stepping, picking up weight, cycling, climbing and catching where skills are broken down into their finest form to development movement patterns that last.   In some cases we see children with delayed skills to have less efficient metabolisms, thereby increasing body weight easily.


In the cases of children with behavioural and social challenges  the “emotional override” by the brain’s limbic system of the CNS will disrupt motor skills.  In this case its necessary to work on their preparation for movement.  There are delays in the CNS that cause balance issues in this regard.  A child at any age can improve their motor functions.  Yes, adults also can, but not as rapidly.

Neurological disorders can cause semi-permanent or permanent motor skill loss.  In these children there is a good opportunity to aid the body in recruiting new motor nerves to help improve movement.  All bodies have the ability to improve in some capacity and also compensate for inadequate abilities.


Motor skill development is very important for safety, social life and health.  Most children naturally want to interact with other children or at least have a sense of self-esteem.  Some children have motor delays and impulsivity tendencies, which is a combination for injury.  Spending time on specific motor development aids the child throughout their entire life.  Balance control and strength for safety, relationships and sport development, and brain and circulatory health.  So often the motor development aids the mental focus too!  Best practices or strategies in motor development require goals and evaluation.

In all, children need to have fun and developing these necessary skills only helps in the fun and participation.  Children like physical outlets and this ultimately helps manage emotions and behaviour.  When children do not develop their “potential” skills the challenges can be greater in other areas of their life experience.
written by Mr. Corey Evans Executive Director of BODiWORKS Institute, Founder of the Adapted Gym Program  (AGP)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Disturbed NOT Ignored Social Communication


In our society, human beings are driven to accomplish goals and succeed at any task, whether it is related to the work force, the family, or self-improvement. It is reasonable to assume that the primary motivation for all humans that engage in tremendous efforts to attain these goals is to experience a sense of self-fulfilment, of reaching happiness. As people, our affective states change as a response to the gains and losses we experience during the course of our life, and our interpretation of these gains and losses will vary depending on an individual’s personality and genetic makeup. For children with special needs, there is often a disruption in their ability to perceive a task as a success or failure, and this misinterpretation can often lead to expressions of frustration, stress, or inability to interact appropriately with other social beings. This can explain why you may have observed a child with special needs respond with anger or fear, frustration or anxiety when in a novel situation. Their ability to interpret the situation or event as positive or negative will determine their future actions. To cope, it is important that individuals involved within the life of a child with special needs recognize that these children are aware of the social cues and the communications occurring in any given environment, but that a disruption can occur in their interpretation of the event. Like any behaviour, a response is the result of the interpretation of a sensory input, whether it be the context of a social conversation or the observed interactions between children playing at a playground.

                A recognized difficulty for children with autism is verbal or non-verbal disturbed communication. This is primarily known for non-verbal cues, such as a deficient or atypical perception of nonverbal communication from the eyes or the face. A distinct example would be a child with autism demonstrating difficulty in making or maintaining eye contact with someone they are engaged with, or focusing on atypical features of the face such as the nose or forehead. For verbal communication, there is often demonstrations of babbling or abnormal verbalizations in tone, pitch, and rhythm.
A primary example of atypical verbal communication is echolalia, where the child with autism will echo back what another social being has said, without necessarily interpreting or understanding the social meaning of that echoed speech. This emphasizes the difficulties children with special needs may experience when attempting to connect socially with their peers, as they often have notable deficits in pragmatics, the social use of language. Their social interactions are often characterized by irrelevant details in conversation, demonstrating inappropriate shifts in topic especially to topics of their own interest, or a complete disregard for the normal interchange in conversation, where one person speaks and then another can respond to the topic presented by the first speaker. Although these disruptions in communication are well-known and can characterize several children within the spectrum, variability in comprehension and expression exists. Some children are more effective at telling stories, communicating better with prompts, or when reading or writing rather than speaking. In summary, children with special needs will often demonstrate some atypical responses to social cues, whether verbal or non-verbal, but they are aware on a brain-based level of the social context of every environment they are exposed to.  Their expression of this brain-based process does not match, therefore is often misinterpreted.

Written in connection with BBAIM
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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Social Milestones ?

What are Social Milestones?

Social Development Milestones – What to Expect

                Often when we hear someone discussing social development, we assume they are referring to the development of friendships and the interactions we generally see in middle-school children and adolescents. However, social development begins at birth and the type of social experiences we have as infants and young children often dictate the way we interact and socialize as adults. In order to develop social skills and exhibit normative social development, there are particular milestones that each individual should successfully demonstrate or achieve as they progress from infancy to adolescence.


                At birth until the age of five years old, children need the stability of early social relationships and essential needs available to them. These early social relationships are generally the primary caregivers of the infant, such as a mother or father, but it can also be an alternative constant caregiver such as a grandmother or foster parent. Infants need to know they are loved and cared for in order for them to learn its significance when they later reciprocate those feelings in their future relationships. The need for food and other essentials like shelter must be available as this can also influence the form of attachment the child develops to caregivers. For instance, an infant will quickly learn whether or not they can trust a caregiver if in their care they are deprived of their needs when needed. This will influence their ability to establish secure attachments with others and trust them in future relationships.  There are several forms of attachment that are possible for children to develop as a result of their social experiences, but they are primarily categorized as secure attachment and insecure attachment. The preferred attachment is secure, where the child feels their caregiver is a secure base in their life and they feel comfortable exploring their environment or interacting with new people because their caregiver is always available if the novel stimuli or person is too overwhelming for them. An insecure attachment can be when the child depends on the parent and clings to them in novel environments or when they do not consider the caregiver as a secure base. In these circumstances, a child can have a difficult time developing trust, initiating social play or interactions with others, or distinguishing between a safe and unsafe environment. As a result of early interactions, future life strategies for developing social relationships can be modified or adapted.

 ...In the first year of life, infants also begin to respond to social stimuli by exhibiting a “social smile”, which is the ability for a child to respond to another person and illustrate to the parent that they are aware and can react to a social context, such as a parent talking to the child.  Infants also demonstrate distinct facial expressions in their first year of life, including expressions of sadness, happiness, and anger. As their attachment style develops, the reaction to strangers generally becomes more fearful as the attachment to caregivers becomes stronger. This year of life is also a critical period in the development of separation anxiety as children are able to recognize familiar and unfamiliar people.

...In early and mid-childhood, children are engaging in more social interactions with their peers and start forming friendships and various attachments to people present in their lives. Children begin to develop their adult personality based on their social experiences that will introduce and solidify their values, interests, goals, and life strategies. Since children need and depend on both parents and peers for normal social developments, the absence of peers can have a detrimental impact on their ability to become socialized. A developing child receives their personality traits and values from their parents through learning and socialization, however peers and siblings have a measureable impact on personality development. Depending on the social dynamic, peer groups can influence which values and traits introduced by parents to accept and reject. Peer socialization is most important in late childhood and adolescence, where children will adopt the group’s attitudes and norms of behaviour and in adolescence groups will be segregated based on similar abilities and interests. It is during adolescence that the skills and milestones reached in infancy and childhood will play a crucial role in selecting and rejecting elements of the adult culture in the process of developing their own culture.
written by Orla Tyrrell of BODiWORKS Institute and Facilitator of SPP  

 

importance of MOTOR SKILL development

Why is Motor Skills Development so important?



All children have rapid changes in development in their CNS (Central Nervous System) as they age.  In brief…the CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord.  The CNS uses sensory receptors throughout the body to assist movement.  Movement is motor function that results from a series of sensory and motor neuron events occurring in very short succession. The groundwork for the CNS begins in the womb, and is partially influenced even then, by their environment. 

Voluntary movements (initiated by self) are the first means of communication between baby and its family.  Sometimes the CNS develops “slower” as compared to their neurotypical counterparts. 


This slower development does not always result in delayed or impaired motor development.  However when it does, it can be immediately noticeable or later in life (months or years).  If the CNS is compromised at all in the birthing process or later by infection or disease the motor development of the child is affected.   

Delayed motor skills are those skills that are underdeveloped compared to other children of similar age.  These skills can be developed using clever gross motor (multiple joint/sensors) and fine motor (single joint) programming.  It is very successful when this programming is consistent, individualized and progressive.  Programming involves segmented movements that relate to the weakest points for the child.   Some examples of topics are jumping, stepping, picking up weight, cycling, climbing and catching where skills are broken down into their finest form to development movement patterns that last.   In some cases we see children with delayed skills to have less efficient metabolisms, thereby increasing body weight easily.


In the cases of children with behavioural and social challenges  the “emotional override” by the brain’s limbic system of the CNS will disrupt motor skills.  In this case its necessary to work on their preparation for movement.  There are delays in the CNS that cause balance issues in this regard.  A child at any age can improve their motor functions.  Yes, adults also can, but not as rapidly.

Neurological disorders can cause semi-permanent or permanent motor skill loss.  In these children there is a good opportunity to aid the body in recruiting new motor nerves to help improve movement.  All bodies have the ability to improve in some capacity and also compensate for inadequate abilities.


Motor skill development is very important for safety, social life and health.  Most children naturally want to interact with other children or at least have a sense of self-esteem.  Some children have motor delays and impulsivity tendencies, which is a combination for injury.  Spending time on specific motor development aids the child throughout their entire life.  Balance control and strength for safety, relationships and sport development, and brain and circulatory health.  So often the motor development aids the mental focus too!  Best practices or strategies in motor development require goals and evaluation.

In all, children need to have fun and developing these necessary skills only helps in the fun and participation.  Children like physical outlets and this ultimately helps manage emotions and behaviour.  When children do not develop their “potential” skills the challenges can be greater in other areas of their life experience.
written by Mr. Corey Evans Executive Director of BODiWORKS Institute, Founder of the Adapted Gym Program  (AGP)

Monday, 10 November 2014

Smiles & neural basis for emotion recognition


How Do We Understand Emotions? A Neural Basis for Emotion Recognition
 
In any social interactions, one person typically provides a behavioural response to the affective state or social cues of another person.  It is the ability to accurately recognize and process the emotions of others that provides people with the skills and ability to have positive and socially appropriate interactions and relationships.  We may sometimes not realize how important the emotional aspect of a conversation is for conveying a message to another person. Often, a smile or frown can completely change how others will evaluate our moods, attitudes, and it will influence how they choose to approach us of interact with us.

... it is believed that emotion recognition is innate and universal, it is an ability that is learned over a lifetime. The ability to recognize emotional signals is critical for social interactions and necessary for social development, so how are people able to recognize emotional stimuli in their environment and therefore learn basic and complex emotions? There are several cortical and subcortical structures in the brain that are involved in the recognition of emotional stimuli, some involved in a specifically designed neural network to recognize facial expressions. Facial expressions such as smiles provide the greatest emotional cues for emotion recognition. Emotions such as sadness, fear, and happiness are processed and interpreted within an expansive neural network including the orbitofrontal cortex and cerebral regions such as the insula, the basal ganglia, the prefrontal cortex, and the amygdala. It is the combination of these structures processing the information from the external environment (such as someone frowning) that allows us to evaluate emotional stimuli and regulate our social and emotional behaviour to know how we should respond or react.

Since emotion recognition relies on a large scale distributed network, it is not entirely clear how this interaction leads to recognition of emotion. However, studies have illustrated that lesions or damage to these cortical and subcortical structures involved in the recognition of facial expressions can lead to impairments in the recognition of basic emotions such as fear, sadness, and anger.  The next time you are interacting with someone or are involved in a conversation, take the time to observe and consider how their facial expression changing from a smile to a frown can completely change how we choose to interact with that individual.
written by Orla Tyrrell, Special Needs Supervisor / SPP facilitator BODiWORKS Institute
 

Smiling Faces

Some say that the eyes are "the window to the soul" then what are SMILING FACES?

Perhaps as we look around at who is smiling and who is not we can derive simply that those who are smiling are happy. I think there is a difference between contentment and happy. Feeling happy can be an immediate expression to a thought or reaction to a stimuli that gives that unexpected smile in the face.  Contentment can be expressed without a smile. Sometimes a stoic look can mean that the thoughts are pleasing, but not to pleasing that it requires the muscles of the face to erupt into a smile.

If children are happy they have a hard time not smiling unless they have barriers to a smile. Such as in Autism where the connection between what should or could be shown outwardly does not occur in context (most often).  Are they smiling inside? 

In a social context what can be taught?  Is smiling a learned activity? 


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